Love and Caffeine

a cup of tea is so much more

than a porcelain vessel filled with stewed leaves

below the surface is so much more

than milk and honey

therein lies

Nona’s fresh baked scones

post surf giggles

misty mountain view mornings

old books that smell like dust

and new books that smell like glue

early rises and late nights

full road-trip ready thermoses

sunrises that take forever

and sunsets over too soon

every sip I take in the morning

warms not only my bones

but my heart

knowing that the last thing he did

this morning

and every morning

before he leaves for work

was make me a cup of tea

because he gives me not only

love and caffeine

but everything else

I breathe in with the steam

~*~

Poem, henna, and photo by me. Not sure why this poem won’t go single spaced when the last one did? Does anyone have any insight into why that happens?

I love tea. Some people who know me have gone so far as to say that tea runs in my veins. I drink a minimum of two cups a day. Sometimes I drink more tea than water. I know that’s probably not a healthy way to live but it just happens. Most of the close friendships I have made in my life and my travels have been cemented over a cup of tea, or three.

The strangest experience I had over a cup of tea was with an older man who was staying in the same hostel I was in Auckland, New Zealand. I was alone there and getting picked up the next day by a tour bus. I was a bit anxious, having left the home I had made for the past 5 months in Australia, and spent most of my time reading. There was an older man there with a scraggly unkempt beard, an old and well used jacket that he never took off, and a deep, painful sounding cough.

I didn’t know if he was mentally ill, differently abled, or on drugs. He spent a lot of time rattling on to the air, or whoever would listen, about various conspiracy theories. I saw him pick up at least three different books from the take-one-leave-one pile and read no more than a chapter of each of them. He didn’t sit still for long, he sat out front for a cigarette, then in the backyard, then in the common area, and then vanished. But he was never gone for long. I cannot lie and say I wasn’t a bit afraid of him. Afraid as a woman of an older man I didn’t know, one who acted so differently from the rest of us staying there.  At the very least I was afraid of catching whatever illness he had that made him cough the way he did.

We kept running into one another in the small kitchen. There was one electric kettle and the thing we had in common was that we both loved tea. The more I read the more tea I drink so needless to say I was in there a lot. He tried to talk to me a couple of times. I was too polite to brush him off completely but too uninterested to try to have a legitimate conversation. We did cover the fact that I was getting picked up very early in the morning to leave.

When I got up the next morning I grabbed my bags and exited the room with the kind of care only someone who has frequented large dorms in hostels would understand. I tiptoed down the stairs and into the hallway. Nobody else was in sight so I left my big bag there and went into the kitchen for a bite and a cuppa. My breath caught in my throat when I saw him standing in there and realized that we were going to be alone in a room for the first time. The beauty of a hostel is that despite running into him a lot we were never alone. Now I had no choice.

That was when I saw what he was doing. The two biggest mugs in the kitchen were in front of him and he was pouring boiling water into them. I watched unnoticed from the doorway while he added sugar to one and honey to the other, and opened a fresh pack of cookies. I don’t know if I took a deeper breath or if he just sensed that he wasn’t alone but he looked up and saw me there. He blushed beneath his beard and mumbled something about remembering that I was leaving early and he wanted to make sure that I got my cup of tea before I left. He took his mug and two cookies and left out the back door, probably for a cigarette.

I approached the mug and stared at it. I had a momentary fear that he had put something in the cup with the tea but the smell of the honey and the sight of the cookies was making my mouth water. I dipped a cookie into the tea and ate it in one mouthful. Then I took my mug and my bags and waited on the porch with my book for the tour bus to arrive. It was the most strange cup of tea I have ever had, in terms of who made it and how it came about, and it is the one I will never forget.

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